Scandalmania is distorting our discussion of three different issues, sweeping them into one big narrative -- everything is a "narrative" these days -- about the beleaguered second-term presidency of Barack Obama. Forgive me for feeling cynical and depressed about our nation's political conversation.
Syria’s civil war has been going on for more than two years. Seventy thousand people have been killed, most of them civilians. The situation seems to call for a robust international response. Yet as the United States learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, any large-scale military intervention in the Islamic world is more than likely to fail. But pressure is building for the United States to act, especially in the aftermath of what appears to be the use of chemical weapons by the regime.
Perhaps because the cynicism that dominates contemporary political discourse militates against taking any politician’s words at face value, surprisingly little analysis is devoted to what President Obama actually says in his principal public addresses. Americans are so busy figuring him out, they have stopped hearing him.
The presidents with whom Barack Obama is often compared, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan, did not face the obstacles he does. Obama has every right to be frustrated: When Republicans obstruct, he takes the blame. But even though his assessment of the situtation is correct, his response to it should be different.
At his 2009 inauguration, President Obama pledged to close Guantánamo within a year. Many of those imprisoned there have been held for more than a decade without facing any charges, and in recent months, an increasing number of desperate detainees have engaged in hunger strikes to call attention to their plight.
When the news from Boston first hit, there was an immediate divide between those who saw an Islamic terrorist attack and those who saw the hand of domestic, right-wing extremists. We then moved, without delay, to show how the event proved that our side was right in any number of ongoing debates. The response suggests that we live in an age of shrink-wrapped, prepackaged opinions.
The blood runs cold when one fully appreciates how vulnerable Western policymakers are to slogans and magical thinking. The Reinhart-Rogoff case is the latest, and certainly will not be the last, in which the credulity and carelessness of experts wreak havoc among millions of ordinary people.
Jess Bravin’s The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantánamo Bay traces the vexed history of the military commissions at Guantánamo, established to try terror suspects captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
War is war and murder is murder. The law draws the distinction. The American armed drone is a weapons system of war, not of policemen. And even if it were a police weapon, the United States does not have a commission to police the world of its radicals, jihadists, and religious fanatics, although for too many years it has acted as if it did.
With signs of cooperation on gun control and immigration, and Rand Paul's filibuster against President Obama's drone policy shaking philosophical categories in a healthy way, life and substance are returning to our political debates.
Iran will be our next war, if neo-conservatives and certain advisers to the Obama administration have their way -- all acting with the support of the American public, which one might think has had enough of war, after nearly seventy years of it and gaining nothing.
Are northern Mali and southern Algeria about to be declared the new front in the war on terror that still preoccupies the American political class and the foreign affairs community?
President Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel for defense secretary signals a repudiation of the aggressive foreign policy that has kept the United States fighting wars for over a decade.
Like Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama hopes to usher in a long-term electoral realignment. The Reagan metaphor helps explain the tone of Obama's inaugural address, built not on a call to an impossible bipartisanship but on a philosophical argument for a progressive vision of the country rooted in our history.
'Argo' & 'Zero Dark Thirty'
That President Obama has shed any illusions about his unique gifts as a national healer will increase his capacity to help us leave behind many of the debates that have torn our political world asunder. Tempered by the struggles of his first term, he now seems more at ease declaring exactly what he is for and what he is seeking to achieve.
Little America is the best single book now available on a crucial phase of the American war in Afghanistan.
The threat posed by weapons of mass destruction was infamously used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq. That's why clear evidence and a convincing argument must be presented before any action on Syria's chemical weapons.
President Obama's aggressive campaign of targeted killings against Al Qaeda and the Taliban is the source of bitter resentment toward the United States. Many legal questions about the deployment of drones outside a recognized war zone also remain in dispute. Is the United States establishing a dangerous precedent?
As a method of war, unmanned drones are illegal and unconstitutional. But the two presidential candidates have each indicated a commitment to the continued use of drones for programmed unilateral killing of selected individuals in Muslim society.
It turns out there was no profound ideological conversion of the country two years ago. If Mitt Romney thought the nation was ready to endorse the full-throated conservatism he embraced to win the Republican nomination, he wouldn't be throwing his past positions overboard.
The third debate added to the evidence that the United States is intellectually adrift when it comes to policies concerning the Middle East, and perhaps blundering into serious trouble with Russia and China.
For Barack Obama's supporters, the fact that the president played offense and had a strategy was reason enough for elation. But the most electorally significant performance was Mitt Romney's: Under pressure this time, the former Massachusetts governor displayed his least attractive sides.
What a difference a week makes. Vice President Joe Biden stayed in Rep. Paul Ryan's face for the entirety of Thursday's vice presidential debate. In the process, he forced Ryan, and by extension the Romney campaign, onto the defensive for a large part of the evening.
As the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, President Mohamed Morsi has been looked upon by Washing with apprehension. But he has same well-founded words for the United States in how it should approach relations with Egypt and the Middle East.
Republicans and Democrats wrap some portion of their party’s identity and self-image in the conflict over national-security policy. But at this point the script is nonsense, masking a remarkable common ground between the parties on the legal and policy issues surrounding terrorism.
Like his recent predecessors, President Obama has moved on policy and personnel in ways designed to avoid the time-consuming gridlock that sometimes results from procedures mandated and constraints imposed by the Constitution. But in this election season, candidates on both the left and right need to show humility, restraint, and patience.
A new suit challenges President Obama's 2012 National Defense Authorization Act on the definition of "support" for terrorism, and the possible expansion of presidential power beyond constitutional limits.
Afghanistan and Iraq remain awkward and troubling topics for both political parties.
Neither Mitt Romney nor Paul Ryan seem close to the hawkish ideology that gave the United States its military deployments in Asia and Central Asia. But they seem to have no clear intellectual position at all, which is to say that they might easily become the instruments of others with aggressive ideologies of their own.
We expect some hypocrisy in politics, but it was still jaw-dropping to behold Republicans accusing President Obama of politicizing the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. Wasn't it just eight years ago that the GOP organized an entire presidential campaign around the attacks of 9/11, and George W. Bush's response to them?
I’m a 65-year-old African American. I was excited enough by the election of the nation’s first black president that I would have cut him a thousand miles of slack. But the last thing I expected was that I would watch him meekly accept humiliation by his political opponents. And the second last thing I expected was that I would go into 2012 looking at the upcoming presidential election as a lesser-of-two-evils affair.
Is the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 constitutional?
It was not supposed to end this way. Although President Barack Obama deserves credit for bringing an end to the war in Iraq that he inherited, if he had had his wishes, thousands of U.S. troops would nevertheless have remained stationed in Iraq indefinitely.
Habeas corpus, secret courts & Gitmo
Will emerging democracies produce new tyrannies?
The Afghan government's order a week ago to the U.S. to close its prison at Bagram Air Base near Kabul, where it holds unidentified prisoners, came as a shock to Washington, although President Karzai has before asked the U.S. to cease operations because of what he considered infringements upon Afghan sovereignty.
Should Obama have signed the National Defense Authorization Act?
Should the president of the United States be able to authorize the assassination of a U.S. citizen anywhere in the world without telling the public why—or even acknowledging that he has done so? The question is not theoretical. On September 30 a missile fired from an unmanned drone aircraft operated by the CIA killed two American citizens in Yemen.
It might seem odd to apply the term “understated” to a documentary that features gritty combat footage. But a quiet, poignant restraint is a key note of Hidden Battles, a graceful study of how the act of killing affects soldiers’ mental health.
Ten years after the terrible devastation of September 11, we live in sacred time. All time is sacred, the imprint of a timeless, eternal God—the traces of God’s mysterious presence in the toil and stress, the joy and struggle of history.
When former President George W. Bush joins President Barack Obama at “Ground Zero” in lower Manhattan on September 11 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States, the nation will be reminded, if only for a few hours, that the preservation of democracy requires real sacrifices and the willing embrace of duties, not just the pursuit of private interests and freedoms.
Befitting its subject, The Longest War is a very long book, a comprehensive examination of the struggle that began slowly and surreptitiously in the early 1990s and continued—at least until Osama bin Laden’s killing.
Undoubtedly, in the killing of Osama bin Laden, a certain kind of justice was done, and the relief and satisfaction felt by many of the families of those murdered at bin Laden’s direction cannot be denied. Yet questions about the circumstances of bin Laden’s death remain.
There was much in Obama’s speech announcing the killing of Osama bin Laden—and in the scenes of chanting and jubilant flag-waving across the country that followed—that ought to give Christians, and not only pacifists such as myself, great pause.
Who is Obama? Now we know
Whatever one’s political commitments, facing the question of Iraqi civilian deaths as honestly and objectively as possible is both an intellectual and a moral imperative.
What's our end game in Afghanistan?
Let us contemplate the joys of being in the political opposition when unemployment in your state tops 10 percent.
General McChrystal gets out just in time
Why Washington's conventional wisdom of impending Democratic catastrophe is one of the best things Obama's party has going for it.
The European Union doesn’t know where it stands at the moment. NATO thinks it knows and is gambling.